The Brass Keyhole
By: S.N. Rodgers

Sarah hated going into the dank cellar of her grandmother’s Victorian home, but she wanted to borrow some Christmas decorations, and Grandma was too frail to get them for her. Sarah opened the creaky cellar door, gripped the handrail, and eased down the steps into the darkness. From across the room, she could see the dim glow coming from the keyhole in the far wall. There was no door, just stacks of musty stones with a brass doorknob in the middle of it—nothing behind it but stone and dirt.

When Sarah was a child, she had peeked into the keyhole, but all she could see were fuzzy shadows, floating about like half-deflated helium balloons—faceless, misty figures that passed through the light. The muffled screams and unending sobs unnerved her. If she would be quiet, the flickering entities in the wall would not be aware of her presence. She generally tried to avoid the cellar, but sometimes she would summon the courage to go down there.

“Never let them know you’re here,” Grandma often warned. Her finger, crooked from arthritis, would wave in Sarah’s direction. A stern glare always followed.

Sarah wasn’t going to let her fear of an ominous keyhole ruin her Christmas plans. She pulled three boxes of Grandma’s antique glass ornaments from the shelves. Looking over her left shoulder at the keyhole, she felt a drop of sweat run down her back. The light flickered like a candle flame from the tiny opening as the soft, terrifying sounds assaulted her mind. She told herself to remain calm. She moved as stealthily as a jewel thief sneaking through an occupied home.

A mouse darted from under the stairs and ran across Sarah’s foot. She pulled the boxes to her chest, buckling them. The ornaments spilled over the sides. Seconds felt like minutes as they fell through the air and smashed to the ground. The crash ripped through the silence as razor-sharp daggers of green and red glass littered the floor. Sarah froze. Her eyes widened. Her heart pounded. The light no longer shone from the keyhole. The screams and sobs had stopped. She didn’t even breathe.

But it was too late. They knew she was there.

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